The Indian Express | 4 days ago | 20-09-2022 | 02:50 pm
The spectre of the Babri Masjid demolition haunted the Urdu dailies as they spotlighted the Varanasi district court’s decision to allow the hearing of the plea seeking the right to worship deities within the Gyanvapi mosque, ruling that it is not barred by the Places of Worship Act, 1991. They fear that the tilting of scales in favour of this plea may open the floodgates of similar rows, setting up a new faultline in the country.ROZNAMA RASHTRIYA SAHARAThe multi-edition Roznama Rashtriya Sahara kicks off its September 13 editorial with a question: “Will Gyanvapi mosque turn into another Babri Masjid?” It says the question has assumed salience as the Varanasi district court has dismissed the challenge by Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee against the civil suits filed by four Hindu women seeking the right to worship deities within the Gyanvapi mosque premises, thereby allowing the maintainability of the suits to be heard on merit now. It notes that Varanasi district judge AK Vishvesha ruled that the Hindu side is not barred by the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, which stipulates that the nature of all places of worship, except Ayodhya’s Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid which was then under litigation, shall be maintained as it was on August 15, 1947. This law was invoked by the Supreme Court while delivering its judgment in favour of Ram Temple in 2019.The daily writes that the 1991 Act has been reassuring for the Muslim community so far despite the setback in the Ayodhya case. “However, the Varanasi court order has now cleared the decks for hearing in the dispute involving a second mosque after Babri Masjid — Gyanvapi mosque… It has also triggered concerns whether this would lead to opening of floodgates of such rows despite the 1991 Act since multiple disputes involving various places of worship have surfaced in recent days.”The edit points out that the Ayodhya row had sparked widespread riots killing many people across the country. The Babri Masjid demolition sent shock waves across the world as such an outrage was considered “unthinkable” in India prior to December 6, 1992, it says, highlighting the point that such cataclysmic shifts are brought about by changing politics. Noting that the apex court had transferred the Gyanvapi case from the Varanasi civil court to the district court which rejected the mosque committee’s challenge based on the 1991 Act, the daily flags apprehensions that the simmering dispute will remain on the boil now.INQUILABTracking the progress of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, the New Delhi-based Inquilab, in its leader on September 18, writes that the Yatra has been gaining traction “beyond expectations”. Regardless of a few bumps, the march has been negotiating its route with “discipline, motivation and purpose”, it says. “The remarkable response the Yatra is getting from people as seen in Tamil Nadu and Kerala makes it clear that our country is not what is portrayed on TV channels through warlike debates and propaganda. It seems such a march had become imperative and that people were waiting for it.”According to another viewpoint, the daily notes, the Yatra’s passage through Tamil Nadu earlier and Kerala at present has been notable since the Congress party still has strength in these southern states. However, there seems to be a distinct possibility now that the Yatra will prompt a groundswell of public support and enthusiasm as it weaves its way through various states, it says. The Congress’s critics had earlier dubbed the night-time sleeping containers atop trucks for Rahul and Yatris as “vanity vans”, but it has been debunked. Stating that the long road ahead will test the Congress marchers, the edit says, “This is also being claimed that the Yatra has been in the throes of confusion and that since the country is not divided the question of uniting it does not arise…However, going by the public response it is evident that the Yatra has been able to put its narrative across effectively.”SIASATIn its September 17 editorial titled “Yeh Jung Ka Daur Nahin (This is not an era of war)”, the Hyderabad-based Siasat refers to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand in Uzbekistan, highlighting that PM Modi told President Putin that “today’s era is not an era of war”.Pointing out that the war still rages months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the daily says that in its initial phase Moscow seemed to dominate the conflict as its military forces made their advances and launched massive attacks on the Ukrainian cities. However, in recent weeks, Kyiv has got an upper hand as its forces mounted counter-attacks, regaining its regions lost to Russians. It is evident that the fierce Ukrainian fightback has been fuelled by weapons worth billions being supplied from the United States and several European countries, the edit states. Kyiv has forced Moscow on the defensive, but there does not seem to be any signs of a cessation of hostilities.PM Modi’s remarks on war, with him telling President Putin that this is not an era of war and that diplomacy and dialogue should be adopted, is “right and important”, the daily says. “Humanity is getting hurt by the war between Russia and Ukraine, whose consequences are severely impacting the entire world. It has caused a rise in food prices and energy bills, triggering inflation in Europe. Reeling under price rise, Britain’s workers are holding protests to demand an increase in their wages,” it states. Noting that the sanctions slapped on Putin by the Western countries have not deterred him so far, the edit says it is imperative that the international community and global institutions launch the initiative urgently and take measures proactively to ensure the termination of the war.URDU TIMESCommenting on the Rs 1.54 lakh crore Vedanta-Foxconn semiconductor project’s flight from Maharashtra to Gujarat, Urdu Times, in an editorial on September 16, writes that the world of business is driven by its own politics of profit and loss and that the Vedanta-Foxconn joint venture (JV)’s sudden shift mirrors the world of politics marked by defections of MLAs from one party to another. It points out that despite holding negotiations with Maharashtra for a long time for setting up their project there, the JV made the switch overnight sealing the MoU with the Gujarat government. The Mumbai-based daily states that the Maharashtra Opposition has cried foul, calling it an alleged plot against the state to advantage Gujarat. “However, this is not the first time big-ticket projects have chosen to switch states. The states also compete with each other to bag them. Even in the case of the Vedanta-Foxconn project, other states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Telangana were also making attempts to clinch it.”However, the JV’s move stunned Chief Minister and rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde and silenced Deputy CM and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, the edit notes, adding that Shinde must ensure that the country’s financial capital Mumbai is not weakened. It is now a matter of record that soon after the Shinde-Fadnavis government assumed office a mega project slipped out of Maharashtra’s hands, the daily states. One reason why Gujarat walked away with the project could be its better ease-of-doing-business deal for the promoters as compared to the neighbouring state, it says, claiming that Maharashtra has always “nurtured” Gujarat in the arena of business. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bullet train project will also link Ahmedabad with Mumbai. The progress of neighbouring states should be welcomed, but CM Shinde has to maintain Maharashtra’s edge in the economic sphere. In business too, there is no last projects. Like governments, projects would keep coming and going, but the aim must be to ensure the progress of states as well as the country.”
Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray’s Saturday protest at Pune’s Talegaon, the site for the proposed Rs 1.5 lakh crore ($20 billion) semiconductor project of the Vedanta-Foxconn joint venture (JV), has signalled a spiralling political row in Maharashtra days after the JV despite being in discussion with the Maharashtra government on the project for years switched to Gujarat.A political slugfest has erupted in Maharashtra since September 13, when the Vedanta-Foxconn signed an MoU with the Gujarat government for their semiconductor project, with the Opposition MVA blaming the Eknath Shinde-BJP government for letting the flight of the big-ticket project to the neighbouring BJP-ruled state.Attacking the Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis dispensation, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, while addressing a party rally earlier this week, alleged that the government was “lying” on the issue and should be “ashamed” of the project going to Gujarat, even as he offered his support to it to bring the project back to Maharashtra. “Let’s come together and bring it back. I will also come with you,” he told the Sainiks.Cornered over the Vedanta-Foxconn project, which was one of the biggest industrial investments projected to come to Maharashtra, the ruling camp is now desperately looking for a face-saver, with CM and rebel Sena leader Shinde reaching out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah in this regard.Speaking to the Express Group last Sunday, Shinde said his government will announce a mega project for the state very soon.Vedanta-Foxconn project shift furoreAn industrial state like Maharashtra, which has almost all the key elements to attract investors – land, skilled labour, port, road connectivity, water, knowledge ecosystem – has been waiting for a mega industrial investment for years. While the state has seen various investments, from medium to large scale projects, coming to the state in the IT and automobile sectors among others, a mega investment has not fructified over the last decade despite the Magnetic Maharashtra summits and the “Make in India” investors summit in 2015 – when Foxconn had made its first investment commitment of $5 billion to the state.If the wait for Foxconn to invest in the state lasted for 7 years, losing it to a neighbouring state in a matter of two months or a quarter, was set to unnerve the political class and the residents of the state alike.While the continuous flow of new projects in any state keeps its economic growth on track, creates jobs for its people and also enhances social development, mega projects worth $3-5 billion or more give impulse and ripple impact that leads to the building of the ancillary industry, development of service sector and a thrust to the real estate, among other things.The Vedanta-Foxconn project had come as a hope for Maharashtra, which has been reeling under an accumulated debt of Rs 6.50 lakh crore, as the state saw it as a golden opportunity to give impetus to both its sluggish investments and channelise it towards job creation after the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.Terming the Vedanta-Foxconn project loss as a major setback for Maharashtra, a top economist, who has been closely watching the state’s progress over more than three decades and has been involved with various governments in the state with regards to its development, said, “It takes a long time for mega projects to fructify as a lot of home work has to go into it and bureaucrats, political class are involved. So in that sense the loss of Vedanta-Foxconn is a big setback. Also when I take a closer look, I don’t see a mega project in the vicinity and so it is both loss of time and opportunity.”While the state had also announced a Rs 3 lakh crore refinery project in Nanar in 2015, which promised to generate over 1 lakh jobs, it has failed to see the light of the day. The new government is, however, hopeful to revive the project.As regards the past mega investments in the state, the two that made their mark were the $3 billion Enron power project announced by the US major in 1992 and the $13 billion Jaitapur nuclear power project for which the agreement was signed with the French company in 2010. While Enron ran into trouble and also resulted in financial loss for the state, its debacle led to a power crisis, with the state running into power deficit for several years as power producers stayed away from committing investment in the power sector in view of the expected big capacity addition of 2,000 MW through Enron’s natural gas-based Dabhol power project. Also, the Jaitapur nuclear power project has not been able to take off in the manner it was envisaged.The politics of economyWith the latest big investment opportunity gone, the Maharashtra government is now hoping for a bigger project and is counting on the BJP-ruled Centre’s blessing. However, even as Shinde exuded confidence in pronouncing that Maharashtra will bag a major investment in the coming days, Deputy CM and senior BJP leader Fadnavis has exercised caution warning that “Maharashtra will have to initiate concrete steps to rebuild the confidence of the investors.”The government is also hopeful of benefiting from a “double-engine” government — a BJP government both in the state and at the Centre. While the Vedanta-Foxconn project might have been lost due to the lack of the Centre’s intervention (CM Shinde’s July 26 letter to Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal showed that Vedanta had asked the state government to get the “Central Government alignment”), the current government still hopes to capitalise on a “favourable” central government. This “alignment” has already led to breakthroughs in some key infrastructure projects in the state such as the land acquisition approvals for the Mumbai Ahmedabad bullet train project, clearance for the metro car shed land in Mumbai, and the Dharavi redevelopment project. These projects could not move ahead during the previous Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government, comprising the Sena, BJP and Congress, as the state and Central governments used to be locked in a recurring tussle over them.While the state government has redoubled its efforts to clinch a big-ticket project ahead of the crucial Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls, slated for late 2022 or early 2023, it is working on multiple fronts, including the revival of the Rs 3 lakh crore refinery project. At the Mumbai industrial conclave last week, Fadnavis indicated his government’s resolve to revive the refinery project. He said, “The refinery project is high on our plate. But the inordinate delay has made it difficult to match the same scale. Even if it is taken to its logical end it will be on a smaller scale.”Another project under process and being discussed on priority is Wadhawan Port at Raigad. With access to natural deep draught the project when completed will have the potential to anchor even the biggest ship across the world.Concerned over losing the the Vedanta-Foxconn project to Gujarat, Shinde and Fadnavis seem to be hopeful now that they will get the Centre’s backing for these critical large projects in Maharashtra.It is also important that the state improves its record over the conversion of signed MoUs into real investments on the ground. In the past 7.5 years the state hosted two major investment events — Magnetic Maharashtra and Magnetic Maharashtra 2.0. The first Magnetic Maharashtra was held in 2018 under the then Fadnavis-led BJP-Sena coalition government. At the end of the three-day conclave, the state had then signed 4210 MoUs with promised investment of Rs 16 lakh crore, of which around Rs 12.1 lakh crore was investment from private industries and Rs 3.9 lakh crore was a proposal signed between the Centre and state governments. However, only 50 per cent of the total proposed investments, which were signed, could be realised and have been since at various stages of implementation.The second Magnetic Maharashtra was held under the MVA government in 2020 when Vedanta-Foxconn had committed their semiconductor project to the state, subject to the approval from the Centre.Although the Vedanta-Foxconn project’s departure from the state has now given the Opposition MVA a handy weapon to score points against the BJP-Shinde regime, nobody is disputing the state’s ability to “overtake” Gujarat.The Leader of the Opposition and NCP leader, Ajit Pawar, said, “We had promised a 1,000 acres land parcel to the company in Talegaon. If Vedanta-Foxconn has buckled under political pressure to relocate the project it is a sad comment on politics.”Taking up the political challenge, Fadnavis has pledged to outstrip Gujarat in coming days. At least two projects show promise and are cited to show the BJP’s success — the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) complete with two nodes, Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Area and Dighi Port Industrial Area, and the Aurangabad Industrial City (AURIC). While Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Area is being developed as a large-scale industrial cluster, the Dighi Port Industrial Area will become a port as well as an industrial hub. On the other hand, the AURIC is a greenfield smart industrial city spread across 4,030 hectares with investments of Rs 5,500 crore with the state government estimating that it can generate more than three lakh jobs over the next 15 years.The politics of rivalryThe creation of Maharashtra and Gujarat on the same day, May 1, 1960, through reorganisation of states was not a smooth affair. Mumbai (then Bombay) was the bone of contention between them. To ensure Mumbai remains in Maharashtra, a long-drawn agitation, Samyukta Maharashtra Movement, was launched in 1956. About 105 people lost their lives in this movement. In this background, Maharashtra versus Gujarat has always been a fraught discourse.Despite the co-existence of both Marathi and Gujarati communities in Mumbai, the faultlines remain. And following the switch of the Vedanta-Foxconn project to Gujarat, the Opposition has again brought this debate to the centre stage of Maharashtra politics. Confronted with the in-house challenges following a major split within, the Uddhav-led Sena seems to have got a major political issue on a platter that it hopes would cut ice with the people besides helping the party to hit back at the BJP. This assumes more significance as the BMC polls may be held over the next three-four months, which will settle the key question whether the Uddhav Sena would be able to retain its hold over the BMC that it has been able to do successfully over the last 25 years.The BJP-Shinde alliance, on the other hand, has been sensing an opportunity in the upcoming BMC polls to bring an end to the Sena rule from there and deal a body blow to Uddhav’s party. It, however, reckons that if Maharashtra versus Gujarat narrative gains traction, it might be “politically fatal” and hence they are going all out to quell the controversy and promise a mega industrial project for the state soon.Even as the BJP-Shinde combine has set higher electoral targets for the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls — in the previous 2019 polls, the BJP had won 23 out of 48 Lok Sabha seats and 105 out of 288 Assembly seats in the state — a polarisation along Maharashtra versus Gujarat lines might undermine it. Demographically, 65 per cent of the Maharashtra population is youth with an average age of 27. No political party can overlook the youth aspirations given its presence and potential to make or wreck the electoral results in the state. And the departure of a mega semiconductor project — which is regarded as the industry of the future — from the state makes for bad optics, both in the eyes of the state political class as well as its youth.The NCP’s youth leader and Karjat-Jamkhed MLA, Rohit Pawar, says, “We are not against any state’s development. But the question is why sacrifice Maharashtra youth. Why should our next generation pay the price?” Now, this may be question, which cannot go unaddressed for long as it is not just about employment and financial implications but also the aspirations of youth, whose vote base could play a big role in the electoral outcome.
The upcoming Assembly election in Gujarat will be a direct contest between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the ruling BJP, AAP’s co-incharge for Gujarat Raghav Chadha said Saturday, while dismissing Congress as an “aged” party which has failed to win any election in almost three decades.“After a 27-year rule of the BJP, now is time for a change, time for the Arvind Kejriwal model of governance in which the poorest of the poor get world class education, health facilities, operations, medicines free of cost…free electricity and water, financial support to women etc,” Chadha said.He added, “This model is changing lives of the people and therefore people want to adopt it. We will work hard and the way Aam Aadmi Party is progressing, it is quite evident that the 2022 Gujarat election has effectively become an Aam Aadmi Party versus BJP contest and we are ahead in the race.” Chadha was interacting with journalists after landing at the Rajkot airport Saturday.A former minister in the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi, 33-year-old Chadha had also served as AAP’s co-incharge for Punjab in the run up to the Assembly election in that state early this year. AAP had defeated Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP in a three-way contest and formed a government there, the party’s first outside Delhi.Months later, Chadha, who is a certified chartered accountant, was elected to Rajya Sabha from Punjab unopposed. On 18th of this month, AAP had appointed him its co-incharge for Gujarat where elections are due to be held in December. The Rajkot visit was Chadha’s maiden trip to Gujarat after being assigned the state’s responsibility.Incidentally, AAP national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been campaigning hard in Gujarat since July this year and trying to woo voters by promising free electricity, overhauling government schools, good healthcare facilities, unemployment allowance, monthly allowance to women, 10 lakh government jobs etc.On Saturday, Chadha claimed that Kejriwal was the only politician whom God has “given His blessings” to make such things happen. “I often say this: God has given His blessings to only Arvind Kejriwal for providing free electricity. The God has given His blessings to only Arvind Kejriwal for providing world class education to every child, be it son of the poorest of the poor or that of a judge or bureaucrat. This is the reason, people starting from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Guwahati to Gujarat, want to try and adopt the Arvind Kejriwal model,” he claimed.Chadha also dismissed Congress as an aged party which had failed to give a fight to the ruling BJP. “Congress is that tired and defeated party which could not defeat BJP in 27 years. How will the party, which couldn’t give a fight to BJP in 27 years, will do it now. Congress has now become a very aged party and voters of Gujarat no longer look up to it,” Chadha said, adding, “This the reason this (election) has become a contest between BJP and Aam Aadmi Party.”The AAP leader also said that people of Gujarat are fed up with the almost three-decade-long rule of BJP and want a change this election. “With respect to the upcoming Assembly election, there are only three things on people’s mind. They are: change, change and change,” he said.“People are fed up with the BJP rule and want to try Kejriwal model of governance, they want an honest and pro-people government, the way the people of Delhi threw Congress out after a 15-year-long rule, said ‘I love you, Kejriwal,’ pressed the broom (poll symbol) button and never looked at any other party afterwards, the way people of Punjab also threw the Akali Dal and Congress governments of 50 years, said ‘I love you, Kejriwal’ and formed government of Aam Aadmi Party,” Chadha claimed.When asked what will be the party’s election strategy in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and in the backdrop of failure in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh elections, Chadha said that AAP is the only party which keeps its promises.“Aam Aadmi Party goes among the people with its governance model and talks about getting work done. In the entire country, there is only one party which does what it promises and whose all leaders are honest. It is the only party which removes a minister from the council of ministers over allegations of corruption, it is the only party which can give people free electricity, education and good healthcare facilities,” he said.Chadha further claimed that the statement of Jagmal Vala, AAP’s candidate for Somnath Assembly constituency in Gujarat, was being quoted out of context. “Statement of some of our people was quoted out of context and presented after distorting it. When the Opposition has no issue, when the Opposition can’t point fingers at your policies, politics and character, it seeks to try and find its political feet on such issues,” Chadha said, adding the more BJP attacks AAP, the more it will prove that the BJP is “scared”.
At 13, Rajasthan’s Independent MLAs outnumber non-Congress and non-BJP parties and at least 10 of them are Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s supporters.In the CM’s tussles with former deputy CM Sachin Pilot in the past, these MLAs often gave him an edge but they may be now looking at an uncertain future as Gehlot may have to step down if he gets elected Congress president. At least one pro-Gehlot Independent MLA has changed his tune when it comes to Pilot who is said to be the Congress leadership’s choice to take over as CM if the veteran leader moves to Delhi to head the party.The Independent legislators played a crucial role in getting Gehlot chosen as CM after the 2018 Assembly polls that had seen the Congress fall one short of the majority mark of 100. Most of them are former Congress leaders, and even Union ministers, who were denied a ticket but went on to win without the party’s backing. The pro-Gehlot Independent MLAs promised to support a Congress-led government only if the 71-year-old was made the CM. This effectively put paid to Pilot’s ambitions for the top job and he had to settle for the deputy CM’s chair. When Pilot rebelled against Gehlot and the party in 2020, these MLAs again sided with the CM. They stayed in hotels and resorts with Congress legislators while Pilot and his group of 18 MLAs camped in Delhi and Haryana for over a month. The Independent MLAs also voted for the Congress in this year’s Rajya Sabha elections.Given the level of support Gehlot enjoys among this group, it was unsurprising when Sirohi MLA Sanyam Lodha recently said the CM should be allowed to hold on to his post even if he becomes the Congress president. Lodha, who is an advisor to the CM, told reporters, “Indira ji, Rajiv Ji, Narsimha Rao ji, all stayed both Congress presidents and prime ministers. In the context of Rajasthan, I would like to say that Ashok Gehlot sahab has done excellent work in four years. He started schemes for the welfare of the poor, and did unprecedented development work … Only by projecting his face can the Congress benefit from these works. I feel that he should stay the chief minister and lead the Congress.”In an interview to The Indian Express on Thursday, Gehlot said though the “one person, one post” principle laid down in the party’s Udaipur Declaration was meant for nominated posts and not ones for which elections are held, a person holding two posts would not be able to “do justice to the Congress presidency”.Some of the former CongressmenLodha is a three-time MLA from Sirohi. In 2018, he was among the veteran leaders denied an election ticket by the Congress. At the time, Pilot led the state unit and fielded young candidates, some of whom had a background in student politics. But the move backfired.Lodha defeated both the Congress candidate and sitting BJP minister Otaram Dewasi, who headed the first cow welfare ministry, in the election. The other Independent legislators in the Gehlot camp are former Union Minister and Khandela MLA Mahadeo Singh Khandla, Shahpura MLA Alok Beniwal who is the son of senior Congress leader and former Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal, Gangapur MLA Ramkesh Meena, and Thanagazi MLA Kanti Prasad.Of the 13 Independent legislators, three have maintained relations with Pilot. They are Om Prakash Hudla, Khushveer Singh and Suresh Tak. With Gehlot now set to contest the Congress presidential elections and the party leadership said to be in favour of Pilot as the next CM, Dudu MLA Babulal Nagar, who is among Gehlot’s advisors and staunch supporters, praised the former deputy CM.Nagar sparked a controversy last week by saying in a public meeting that anybody chanting slogans other than “Rajiv Gandhi Amar Rahe” and “Ashok Gehlot Zindabad” would be jailed. He spoke a day after shoes and bottles were hurled and “Sachin Pilot Zindabad” was shouted when Congress ministers were speaking at the “asthi visarjan (ash immersion)” ceremony of Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla.But, the Dudu MLA recently told reporters, “Pilot is a young leader of Rajasthan, of India. He has a long life ahead of him. He has a personality and that is why I feel that nobody can reduce his number (marks) or increase it. He has the ability and is doing politics according to it. I have seen him at that time when he was not in politics. I have been a kattar samarthak (staunch supporter) of Rajesh Pilot ji (Sachin’s father), have been his worker.”
The Gujarat Assembly elections in December will decide whether the public wants BJP leader Amit Shah’s son, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son or their own children to become a prominent figure in the future, said Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Manish Sisodia in Patan district of North Gujarat on Friday.On the third day of his six-day Gujarat tour, Sisodia, who is campaigning for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), said “For BJP workers, I want to tell you that only (AAP convener and Delhi CM) Arvind Kejriwal ji can give you good schools for your children and good hospitals.”Addressing a public rally at Balisana in Patan, Sisodia said, “This time’s change is not a change of party but rather a change for your household. Till now, the only change that has been happening is either make Sonia Gandhi’s son a big man or make Amit Shah’s son a big man. First time, Kejriwalji is coming and saying that you vote, and your child will be a big man…”He added, “Making your child a big man is not something that the Congress, the BJP or the AAP can do… Only a school and college can… There is a Mehsana BJP leader, who I won’t name since you know it. This leader, before coming into politics owned a four bigha land, today he owns 1,000 bighas. Here leaders become rich.”In his second public address at Unjha, Sisodia continued, “If you vote for the BJP, then Amit Shah’s son becomes a big man. If you vote for Congress then Sonia Gandhi’s children become big.”Continuing with education as the primary plank of his campaign, Sisodia said at Balisana, “The Gujarat government has not created a post for computer teachers in government schools in the 21st century. If someone in the world hears that there is no computer teacher in a state in India, they will laugh at us. If you are not teaching children in the 21st century about computers, what are you teaching them? If you don’t have posts for computer teachers in the 21st century, then shame on such education and shame on such government. I am worried.”Sisodia also visited the Umiya Mata Temple at Unjha in Patan and addressed a second public rally at Unjha“I’m seeing politics change. I started working in 2013 and today we can’t believe that we are seeing a day when we are talking about schools from a political stage,” Sisodia said.Meanwhile, Isudan Gadhvi, AAP national joint general secretary, who has been accompanying Sisodia in his Gujarat tour so far, met protesting mid-day meal workers outside the Patan collector’s office.Speaking to media persons outside the collector’s office, Gadhvi said, “They are demanding higher wages, lower gas cylinder rates, and it is only natural that their demands are met. I promise that within two months of AAP coming into power in Gujarat, we will fulfil all their demands, will get them the right vegetables,…we will ensure to bring children out of malnutrition by providing quality food.”
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) ruled by the BJP decided to whitewash public walls painted with election symbols of lotus, hand and broom, six months after party state president CR Paatil launched a campaign to paint lotus symbol on public walls, leading to the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) following suit and painting almost all public walls, pillars of the metro rail and public toilets with party graffiti.The campaign was launched by the BJP leaders on March 13 from Ahmedabad and Surat, but rapidly taken up in all citiesacross the state. After a public outrage on social media over the defacement of public properties, the Gujarat Metro Rail Corporation (GMRC) was the first to paint over the symbols on metro pillars.The AMC also decided to impose a penalty on those defacing walls repeatedly. AMC standing committee chairman Hitesh Barot stated that “removal” of these symbols has been initiated across all 48 wards of Ahmedabad city.“After the Metro Rail Corporation removed these political party symbols, the AMC, too, started whitewashing the walls in all wards,” Barot told The Indian Express. However, this has resulted in white patches on the red brick boundary wall of the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad. After the launch of the BJP’s lotus campaign, where every symbol was numbered, the Congress responded initially by painting LPG cylinders with its rates, alongside the lotuses in Ahmedabad, Jamnagar, and Himmatnagar (in Sabarkantha district). In Ahmedabad, the BJP launched the wall painting campaign from the Airport Circle in Shahibaug where Paatil and party vice-president Gordhan Zadaphia and general secretary Pradipsinh Vaghela, wrote, “Modi nu Gujarat and Gujarat na Modi (Modi’s Gujarat and Gujarat’s Modi)”, “Gujarat chhe makkam, BJP sathe adikham (Gujarat is firmly with BJP)” and“Sauno Saath, Sauno Vikas, Sauno Prayas, Sauno Vishwas (everyone’s collaboration, development, effort and trust)” along with the lotus symbol, on the walls.The Congress then painted its hand symbol next to the BJP symbol on public walls near Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati, Shahibaug, Ellis Bridge and other areas in Ahmedabad. The AAP followed suit soon and painted brooms in a yellow backdrop with the slogan “Ek Mauko Kejriwalne (One chance to Kejriwal)”.Barot told The Indian Express that the AMC did not have a record nor was it conducting a survey of how many walls were covered with such political symbols. “How many walls have been painted with these symbols is not surveyed. So, the cost for removal is not estimated. Neither have we allocated any amount for this,” he said adding that political party painting the symbol again will be served a notice followed by a fine.“We have not decided the amount of fine yet. First they (the offenders) will be served a notice,” he said.Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) spokesperson Manish Doshi said, “Congress was not in favour of painting the walls with party symbols but were forced by the BJP that started defacing public walls and even government premises. In response to BJP’s misusing of power, Congress workers demanded to give them a befitting reply. But we did not paint any government wall.” BJP’s campaign to paint its symbol on public walls also met with criticism from the Mission Smart City Trust, an NGO, in Rajkot that has been painting walls in the city since 2015. They took objection to the BJP painting over its artwork at the city’s Kisanpara Chowk. After the organisation complained to the city mayor, municipal commissioner, and the BJP’s city presidents, the ruling party whitewashed the walls where the lotus symbols had been painted over the NGO’s artwork.